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Ill-equipped and underpaid, Delhi firefighters dodge death every day

Soumya Pillai, New Delhi: It was 2pm on Thursday. Twenty-two hours had passed since two firefighters were

trapped inside the debris of the gutted plastic factory in Narela.
Anxious colleagues watched as the building was pulled down in a bid to rescue the trapped men.
“There is no chance of survival but we are still hopeful. If they are not trapped inside the rubble, there is a possibility that they would have died of asphyxia,” a fire official present at the spot said.
Firefighters in Delhi dodge death almost every day. Compared to safety gear and facilities available for rescuers in other countries, the firemen back home enter burning buildings with just rubber boots and helmets.
“Most people who join Delhi Fire Services do it because they are passionate about their job… But we still jump into fires to save the lives and property of strangers,” said a senior fire official.
In other countries such as USA and Canada, even a minor change in a building plan is to be notified with the fire unit. Here, however, most buildings do not even take fire clearances for construction let alone submitting alterations.
Delhi: Delhi: Fire safety norms flouted in Narela factory
“In western countries, before entering a building, a firefighter knows the plan of the building. He knows the locations of the staircases and the exit doors. This increases efficiency and reduces the time we need to spend inside,” the official said.
He said that in India, officials blindly jump into rescue operations and so there is higher risk.
Ideally, a firefighter shouldn’t spend more than three minutes inside a burning structure. Any time more than this is enough to suffocate them.
The department is also understaffed. The Comptroller and Auditor General report this year noted that out of a sanctioned strength of 3619, 1542 posts were lying vacant.